Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, YouTube, Twitter, and more — with all these platforms, Gen Z (born beginning in 1998) has a lot of potential for a strong digital presence.
What your children post on social media matters more than the numbers of likes they receive. They can highlight memorable life events, share great news, and even build their digital résumés online.
Social media can certainly influence your children’s lives positively, but that’s not to say there’s room for only the good. When posting, teenagers must exercise caution and think before pressing the “share” button. Learning how to think critically about what they share is essential for this group, and this is where a father can help.
Recognizing Social Media’s Highs and Lows
Plenty of excellent ways exist for your children to share their stories and create sound, positive digital footprints for years to come. Sharing what they care about and where they excel, for example, will engage others with similar interests and strengths. That forges connection and sparks conversation, helping them build networks. Likewise, sharing a digital résumé, portfolio, or blog demonstrates how well-rounded a child is.
But parents and children must remember that how and what is posted can affect others’ perceptions, whether those people are grandmothers, college admissions officers, or potential employers. Your young ones need to understand that it’s not just them and their friends on a platform: What they post is visible to a much broader network.
And that network is paying attention to social media. In fact, a recent Kaplan study shows that 35 percent of universities surveyed screen a prospective student’s social media sites. Hiring managers act similarly, with 37 percent visiting applicants’ pages. When your children’s photos and posts go live, there’s a chance someone who could influence their future is seeing them, too.
A fitting question for your teens is, “Would I want to share this information during an interview?”
If it’s not something they want a potential employer to see, they probably should not post it. Just as they use filters to enhance their Instagram photos, they can use this question to determine whether they should share something.
Leaving Digital Footprints to Be Proud Of
Ultimately, what a child decides to post is his or her choice, but parents are in the position to teach their children how to properly utilize social media.
Be a digital mentor! Teach your children to not only take control of their online presence, but to use it to their advantage. Fathers can coach their sons and daughters in ways to:
1. Engage across platforms. Young users need to know how to navigate each platform and its goals and drawbacks, as each one promotes a different style and expresses your child’s story and information uniquely. Social media users are going to share far different information on Twitter versus LinkedIn. It’s important for parents to be aware of the different platforms and understand how each works.
2. Think about consequences. Again, what your children share will be digitally cemented as part of their online stories, and they need to realize that. Teenagers must be their own filters when sharing, so remind them to evaluate every post before letting it go live and to filter out the ones that won’t help them create a positive footprint.
3. Put their best foot forward. Coach your children through ways to utilize social media that will show they are multidimensional. Reflecting a balanced life outside of academics is just as important as SAT scores or résumés.
4. Develop a network. Social media makes growing a network easier than ever. In our current culture, a person can be well-connected without ever having attended a professional conference or having belonged to an organization. Guide your child through the many social media networking platforms to start growing his or her own network.
5. Avoid controversy. Talking about sensitive subjects is, well, sensitive. Even if your children think everyone in their networks share similar views on a delicate subject, their controversial posts might offend others. It’s good to have an opinion, but it’s also important to respect that others’ opinions may be different from yours.
Mentoring your Gen Z child through cultivating an online presence means you, as the parent, need to be intentional about setting boundaries. Keep the lines of communication open by not overreacting when they make mistakes. Talk about tech often as a family, maintaining a positive tone in order to stay connected with your tech-savvy kids.
A Father’s Role
A father’s own actions set a precedent for how his children behave online. That makes leading by example highly important. Ensure you are following the same filters you have set for your children. If you’re posting personal details or photos you wouldn’t want your boss to see, that’s a green light for your children to do the same.
Fathers have the opportunity to showcase all the positive social media can bring a person. For instance, demonstrate the value of digital networking by maintaining a LinkedIn profile. This will show your kids how the platform has helped you professionally and will encourage them to reach for similar outcomes.
Set an example away from the screen, too. Provide your kids with meaningful opportunities to volunteer, learn something new, or travel. Being involved in a diverse array of experiences provides invaluable material for positive posting.
We live in a digital culture. It is to your child’s benefit for you to purposefully demonstrate how to manage social media. Overall, social media can be a powerful set of tools Gen Zers can use to highlight their strengths and experiences in beneficial ways for years to come. Parents who are involved in and interact with their kids’ digital presence (while giving them space for creativity) can best coach them to use it properly.
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